Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale and wife Julie are one of the AFL's glamour couples, but it wasn't always the case.
The Brisbane Lions star paid tribute to his "amazing" wife after winning the 2020 Brownlow Medal at a strange virtual awards night that reflected an extraordinary coronavirus-hit season.
Neale's beautiful speech, in which he thanked his "selfless" partner for giving up her own dream so he could chase his, brought her to tears.
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The Lions star and his wife moved from their Fremantle base when Neale decided to make the switch from the Dockers to Brisbane for the 2019 season.
The pair are one of the game's power couples, but hilarious details have emerged about the rocky start Neale encountered during the initial courtship of his wife.
An 18-year-old Neale had just been picked up by the Dockers with pick 58 in the National Draft in 2011, when he asked former Freo teammate Matthew Pavlich for an introduction.
As Neale confessed to Perth Now last year, his initial advances were anything but successful.
“The first time I met Jules I was 18 and I asked Pav to introduce me to her,” Neale said.
“He came back and said, ‘She’s not interested in an 18-year-old Harry Styles-looking kid’.”
Neale didn't let the One Direction barb dampen his resolve and six years later Julie had not only changed her tune but accepted Neale's marriage proposal, during a romantic dinner at a South Fremantle restaurant.
A post shared by Lachie Neale (@lachieneale) on
Neale shared the magical moment at the time, captioning an Instagram post of the happy couple with the words: "One very happy/lucky guy".
The pair tied the knot at the end of the 2018 season, before packing up their life in WA and moving to the Sunshine State.
The Lions star seems to have been pinching himself ever since.
During his acceptance speech at this year's virtual Brownlow Medal night, Neale praised his wife for putting her own career on hold to support his.
“My wife Jules, she’s an amazing human being,” Neale said.
“Not many people probably know but she owned a salon in Perth before we decided to move to Brisbane. She had to sell that to come over here and follow my dreams.
“She was doing very well for herself over there but she always puts me ahead of herself when she shouldn’t have to.
“She’s the most selfless person I know and my biggest support, so thank you very much Jules, I love you.”
Lions star thanks loved ones after incredible year
Neale, who grew up in the small town of Kybybolite on the SA-Victoria border, took his game to another level during his second season at the Lions and was always going to be hard to stop in the 2020 Brownlow Medal vote.
The gun midfielder, who had been backed into $1.25 favouritism, easily finished ahead of Travis Boak (21 votes) with Christian Petracca and Jack Steele (both 20 votes) equal third in a ceremonial night that was as predictable as it was peculiar.
Neale also had some special words of thanks for his parents - including his dad who he revealed could probably "reel off the last 40 Brownlow medallists".
“My Mum, Amanda, is an amazing person, an amazing woman, I’m very proud to be her son. She’s done so much for me and so much for my siblings as well,” he said.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) October 18, 2020
“My Dad Robbie, our relationship has grown and developed every year and I can honestly say now he’s one of my best mates.
“My step-dad Brett, his support for me throughout the journey has been amazing, He’s such a good man and looks after our family very well.”
"This is something I've looked up to ever since I was a kid," Neale added.
"My dad can reel off the last 40 Brownlow medallists I think.
"He might have a tear in his eye (doing it now).
"He loves his footy. I learned the love of the game from him."
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